What we’re reading: historian takes on Davos titans and Greta Thunberg takes on her critics

  • Dutch historian Rutger Bregman and Oxfam’s Winnie Byanyima’s interventions at the economic masters of the universe annual Davos summit went viral – and for good reason! Here’s the longer version of what Rutger tried to make clear at Davos in The Guardian, from March 2017: No, wealth isn’t created at the top. It is merely devoured there
  • Political economist Jason Hickel is at it again, and this time taking on Bill Gates and the cast-iron claim that poverty the proportion of people living in poverty has declined from 94% in 1820 to only 10% today, grabbed from an infographic produced by Max Roser of Our World in Data. Bill Gates, according to Hickel, couldn’t be more wrong. Fight!
  • Swedish climate activist Greta Thunburg has written a reply to her critics on Facebook (February 2, 2019), and to give climate activists a sense of the kind of hate mail that has been pouring in since she took on the high flyers at Davos:

Also there is one complaint that I “sound and write like an adult”. And to that I can only say; don’t you think that a 16-year old can speak for herself? There’s also some people who say that I oversimplify things. For example when I say that “the climate crisis is a black and white issue”, ”we need to stop the emissions of greenhouse gases” and ”I want you to panic”. But that I only say because it’s true. Yes, the climate crisis is the most complex issue that we have ever faced and it’s going to take everything from our part to ”stop it”. But the solution is black and white; we need to stop the emissions of greenhouse gases.


Because either we limit the warming to 1,5 degrees C over pre industrial levels, or we don’t. Either we reach a tipping point where we start a chain reaction with events way beyond human control, or we don’t. Either we go on as a civilization, or we don’t. There are no gray areas when it comes to survival.

And when I say that I want you to panic I mean that we need to treat the crisis as a crisis. When your house is on fire you don’t sit down and talk about how nice you can rebuild it once you put out the fire. If your house is on fire you run outside and make sure that everyone is out while you call the fire department. That requires some level of panic.

  • Speaking of which, you may have heard about the Climate Case Ireland legal citizen-led legal action by the Friends of the Irish Environment (FiE) last month and the how the court room was packed with climate activists of all ages? Greennews.ie caught the events day by day, worth checking out especially to see the main arguments being made by the state and FiE over the three day hearing (reports: 1, 2, 3, 4,5, 6,). Verdict expected soon… And more green news: a license granted for oil and gas exploration off the Cork coast was quashed in a High Court settlement following a challenge from An Taisce.
  • Last month saw annual events and reflections on the Holocaust Memorial Day, marked on January 27th. Colm Regan’s feature in the Times of Malta debates the significance of the Holocaust and the importance of living together more humanely as a reference point to learn about and learn from if we are ever to ever to avoid such inhumanity and brutality. While on the subject, a note that gets shared a lot at this time of year is worth sharing again: Hannah Arendt’s We Refugees:

  • The backstop isn’t just about trade, surely? Journalist and group business editor of Irish Independent News (Ireland) Dearbhail McDonald penned a heartfelt piece for UK readers on the human dimension of the Northern Ireland border as an insight to what peace means for border communities in the lead up to the UK’s departure from the EU in March.
  • Lastly, did you hear the one about the Iranian-Kurd refugee who wrote a book from a detention centre island facility using Whatsapp? Behrouz Boochani won Australia’s largest literature award, the 2019 Victorian Prize for Literature for his book No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison (Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island). Not allowed to enter Australia, Behrouz gave his is acceptance speech via Whatsapp video. (via BBC News):

Full disclosure: While I haven’t done a ‘what we’re reading’ for some time I actually have been reading. Expect to see more of these blogs in 2019!

  • Feature photo: Melbourne school strike for climate action. Photo: Julian Meehan (November 30, 2018) via Flickr (CC-BY-2.0)